Organization seeks inclusivity for all after voting to drop controversial labels from name.
By Monserrat Solis, Co-Editor-in-Chief
MEChA, an organization seeking to promote unity and empowerment within the Chicano community, recently voted to change indications of “Chicano” and “Aztlan” at a conference in Los Angeles.
MEChA, formerly known as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan, held a conference (March 29 - March 31) where student leaders voted 29-3 to drop “Chicano” and “Aztlan” after concerns of anti-blackness and xenophobia.
MEChA’s National Board released a message to the public concerning the decision to drop the name, highlighting inclusion and addressing misconceptions. By dropping the descriptive words, this invites all Latinos — not only Mexican Americans — to the conversation, according to MEChA. The organization wants to move away from “Chicano” being the sole representation of the organization.
“We are committed to freedom for all of us, not freedom for some of us,” read the board’s message.
Chicano Professor Jose Maldonado sees interpersonal conflicts at Mission College’s MEChA club, but never racially motivated issues.
“It’s an identity that someone takes on,” said Maldonado about the meaning of being Chicano. “It’s about political consciousness, it’s what you make of it.”
Most people refer “Chicano” to a person of Mexican origin or descent or a chosen identity for Mexican Americans, which can be considered exclusionary for an organization.
Black Chicanos, non-Mexican Americans and indigenous persons often experience xenophobia, anti-indigenous and anti-black hostility from Mexican Americans, according to the National Board’s message.
The term “Aztlan” is the name given to the land, believed to have been populated by Aztecs in Chicano folklore, seized by America during the Mexican-American War of 1846, but that does not mean every Mexican or Latin person is Aztlan descent. That is the reasoning behind dropping the label.
MEChA wants to make it clear they are not erasing Chicano from their history, but they see how their organization can be seen as oppressive and uninviting.
Vice President of Butte College’s chapter, Jose Angel, tweeted that the name “Aztlan” explores anti-indigenous sentiments, but dropping it does not erase the damage done, explaining that it does not fix the “historical sexism embedded within the group’s culture.”
Angel wants the club to reflect openness to all, including the LGBTQ community and indigenous rights, as well as condemn racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia. He states the organization has a long way to go and expresses his frustration with the slow-moving process.
The 50-year-old organization was founded during the civil rights and the Chicano movements in the late 1960s when students started to protest over the inequality and discrimination in the Los Angeles school system.